In Part 1, vortex was defined as: 1) a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it towards its center; 2) a place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that it surrounds, and hence, being inescapable or destructible. The second definition provides a visual for what many think a divorce “looks like.” While the end of a marriage is emotionally tumultuous and devastating, the actual legal process of uncoupling does not have to be. But, it is critical that you choose a process that promotes healing. The Collaborative Process does just that. Collaboration is a holistic approach to divorce. It can be utilized by couples who are ending either a marriage or significant relationship, or who have a child or children together. Although some people question whether it is an appropriate process when domestic abuse or mental health/chemical dependency issues are present, many others think it can (and should) at least be attempted. If you don’t want to be another “divorce horror story,” the Collaborative Process will likely be a great fit. Collaboration focuses on the future (i.e., the relationship of co-parenting in two homes) rather than the past (i.e. the vilification of one spouse); is a win-win for both partners (rather than a court-imposed win-lose); and emphasizes the well-being of the entire family. You don’t air your dirty laundry in court, and you aren’t (literally) judged. In fact, you never set foot in a courtroom. The negotiation model is interest-based/win-win, rather than positional/win-lose. You pay attorneys to help you solve problems, not argue and keep you stuck in the past. Every family is unique, so every family deserves a unique solution. And if you have young children, please keep in mind they need you present and available. You can’t be present when you are fighting the other parent in court. In Part 3, we will discuss the various professionals in the Collaborative Process and how their expertise can help you avoid the divortex.
An attorney representing a client going through collaborative divorce is much more than a legal adviser. The attorney is often a confidant, emotional support system, sounding board, voice of reason, teacher, and financial adviser. Indeed, a collaborative divorce attorney is a “guide.” The Sherpa people in Nepal inhabit the area surrounding Mount Everest. They have become natural guides up the mountain due to their native knowledge, experience in the region, and superior genetic disposition to function in high altitudes. Like lawyers in divorce – they have gone through this before and they are skilled in the tools necessary for success. Most individuals only experience divorce once. A good collaborative attorney has experienced divorce many times – as a guide. They have honed their skills and can “sherpa” or guide clients through this process in an efficient and successful manner. I often ask my clients to think back about their wedding. How much of the wedding was legal? It is often a spiritual, emotional, familial, and sometimes a financial endeavor. The legal piece, however, is more minimal. Perhaps you signed some papers a day or two later and mailed them into the state? A divorce is not all that different. Attorneys should advocate and guide their clients to make decisions in their own best interest. However, the attorney role, much like the wedding itself, is multi-faceted and often not solely focused on legal advocacy. A divorce may feel like a long uphill road, like climbing a mountain. A client needs to find an attorney who they trust in all the roles that attorney will play. A good collaborative attorney should be with you on that journey – guiding you up that path to resolution and peace.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of holistic medicine. The importance and interdependence of body, mind and spirit in our overall health is becoming accepted in the world of healing. Less well known, however, is the Collaborative divorce process, which utilizes a holistic approach to help struggling families heal. Collaborative practice uses a team of experts who work with the parents and their children to achieve deeper resolution. Contrary to popular belief, divorce is not just a legal event. As countless couples in the throes of separation can attest, accusations about the past and fears about the future can make constructive conversation impossible. Frustration sets in and one or both parties “lawyer up.” So begins the all-too-often lengthy, unpleasant and expensive process of litigation, during which parents are often discouraged from communicating with one another. Fortunately, another option exists. In Collaborative divorce, both parties have Collaboratively-trained attorneys providing guidance throughout the process. In addition, they jointly use a team of neutral professionals to address their communication, financial, parenting and emotional issues. A series of meetings takes place in which these interdependent issues are discussed and resolved without court involvement. In this way, divorcing parties maintain more control over both the process and the outcome. Integrative medicine uses a team of specialists who communicate with one another to achieve optimum health for the patient. The Collaborative divorce process parallels this model by bringing together a team of divorce experts. This more humane method of dispute resolution can facilitate healing and result in a healthier post-divorce family.